We've all seen this before. Yet we keep falling into the same trap.
The Patriots start the year out rough. Analysts and fans panic. Then they get hot and end up at the top of the AFC again.
Yes, we've all seen this before.
Their offense sputters—by Tom Brady standards mind you. Their defense fails to show up—by, well, Patriot standards. Their risky additions look, to be brief, risky.
Then, like clockwork, come December, it all works out.
The offense clicks, the bend-but-don't-break defense sticks around with just enough big plays to keep games close and Bill Belichick finds some unknown, under-appreciated, long-forgotten player that helps the Patriots win games.
We've all seen this before.
Belichick looks like he's lost his magic. So-called experts talk about the aging Pats "passing the torch" to an up-and comer. Three years ago it was to the Jets, then the Steelers, then the Ravens, and now this year's hot pick, the Texans.
But the truth is Belichick is still the best coach in the NFL. The Pats don't age, not in the traditional sense. And they hold onto that torch, refusing to relinquish it, like an Olympian jogging those last 100 meters to the Olympic Village for the opening ceremonies.
How does 45-7 sound?
That's New England's record in December under Belichick, counting 13 straight at the moment.
And Tom Brady? How's he handling his mid-30s?
Brady, new father to his first baby girl, is doing just fine. Speaking of torches, he torched the vaunted Texans defense for four touchdowns and 296 yards on Monday.
But it gets worse for the Texans and the rest of the NFL:
New England has won seven straight and is getting better and better each week. Since barely escaping with an overtime victory against the New York Jets in Week 7, the Pats have won by margins of 38, six, 35, 30, seven and 28.
But on Monday night, before a national audience, the Pats came up big against perhaps their biggest threat east of Denver, and the Texans choked like a baby introduced to solid food for the first time.
It was that ugly.
Converting 50 percent of their third-down attempts ugly.
Four touchdown passes against zero interceptions ugly.
130 yards rushing against the No. 2 rushing defense in the league ugly.
Bill Belichick gray, weathered hoody ugly.
You get the point.
If anyone had any doubts whether the Patriots offense was hitting on all cylinders, accept Monday's game against perhaps the best defense in the league as Exhibit A.
Worried that their defense would fold again like it has in years past? I present a team that stopped Houston on 10-of-14 third-down efforts and now ranks 17th and eighth in overall defense and rushing defense as Exhibit B.
Need proof that New England might yet be the class of the AFC? At 10-3, the Patriots play the enigmatic Niners and the fading Dolphins at home, and then travel to face the hapless Jaguars on the road.
They are one back from the Texans for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
It's time to worry for anyone not named the Patriots. It is definitely time to worry.